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Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics Paperback – February 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1587431098 ISBN-10: 1587431092

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Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics + Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) + God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art (Cultural Exegesis)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587431092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587431098
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 6.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In recent years, Protestants have discovered icons, once the provenance of Eastern Orthodox churches. Zelensky (a historian of Russia) and Gilbert (a prolific writer/ghostwriter) team up to introduce Eastern icons to Western Christians. The authors open with a lucid discussion of what an icon is—and is not. It is not merely a work of art depicting the life of Jesus; it is a way of entering into relationship with the Triune God, "an instrument through which the knowledge of God... becomes accessible" to humanity. The heart of the book is a reading of five famous icons, including Andrei Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity. Readers will learn about the history of these icons, their "writers" (creators), symbolism and place in Orthodox theology and liturgy. Six glossy illustrations round out the book. One wishes that the authors had refrained from straying occasionally into large philosophical debates, such as the issue of relativism versus objective reality; their forays into these quagmires are superficial and distracting. Still, the book is a feast; its authors compellingly suggest that icons offer a much-needed space for contemplation in a frenetic world. Indeed, this little book is itself such an oasis. Readers who like Frederica Mathewes-Green and Henri Nouwen will welcome this new addition to the icon shelf.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zelensky, a Russian Orthodox believer, lectures in history at Georgetown University.

Lela Gilbert has written and coauthored numerous books, including Islam at the Crossroads and Their Blood Cries Out.

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Customer Reviews

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Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics is, as far as I know, a great book on the issue.
Gina M. Bacon
Hence the book will be of great interest to not just Protestant or Catholic inquirers, but anyone interested in iconography, even Orthodox themselves.
Christopher Culver
The book does more than just to educate about the difference, but provide information on how Protestants can appreciate icons as well.
K.H.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gina M. Bacon on March 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I know next to nothing about Orthodox Christianity, much less icons. I knew enough not to consider them idols (a major pitfall of Protestants when approaching this issue) but other than that, I had no idea what they meant, why they're done in their particular inverted style, and how they're used by Orthodox Christians.

Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics is, as far as I know, a great book on the issue. Written by Eastern Orthodox university professor Elizabeth Zelensky and Episcopalian author Lela Gilbert, the book is an accessible, quick read full of information and inspiration.

The introduction beings by recounting various reactions to icons. "They look creepy." "People bow before them and treat them as idols." "I'm inspired when I walk into an Orthodox Shrine." "They give me a sense of peace and in a sea of sin and chaos."

Instead of dealing with each Protestant contention with icons at the beginning of the book, Zelensky and Gilbert work their way slowly through the issue, dedicating each chapter to explaining the history, artistic style, and theological meaning of particular icons, and their place in Orthodoxy. This is not a work of modernist apologetics, a naked appeal to a people consumed only with respect for rational thinking stripped of beauty; and it is not a post-modern work, a naked appeal to people who consider condemnation of anything the only sin. It is a perfect blend of reasonable presentation, beautiful language, awe at the power of God, commitment to not hiding or apologizing for their beliefs, and biblical support. Each section is bookended with testimonies from the authors and quotes from Orthodox and Protestant hymns, adding a personal and poetic dimension to the beauty presented.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K.H. on September 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Once in awhile, a book is produced that is unpretentious in its thesis, gentle in its handling of the source, and appropriately communicating the heart of its message with respect to all parties.

"Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics" is such a book. Written by Zelensky, an Orthodox Christian and Gilbert, a Protestant, this book seeks to teach non-Orthodox Christians about the importance of icon traditions. They explain what an icon is and is not, dispelling myths held by many Protestants. The book does more than just to educate about the difference, but provide information on how Protestants can appreciate icons as well.

Many Catholics will find the material familiar, but Zelensky does bring a more Eastern approach that many Catholics may appreciate: nice, inexpensive and rewarding book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you have ever worshipped at an Orthodox church, especially an older one, the aesthetic nature of the experience impresses one as so different from the Catholic and Protestant counterparts. Icons epitomize this Orthodox predilection for sight and sound, as opposed to written texts, as the vehicle of the Gospel. They are "theology in color." Icons are also one of the biggest points of contention between Orthodox and non-Orthodox believers. This little book combines Scripture, personal journaling, history, theology, art and liturgy to portray in a sympathetic way the nature and function of icons in Orthodoxy. The authors try to show how from an Orthodox perspective icons are not merely church art but a means of moving from the material to the spiritual world, and how such a movement can enrich the Christian lives of Protestants and Catholics. In between introductory and concluding chapters, the bulk of the book devotes one chapter each to five important Orthodox icons--Rublev's icon of the Holy Trinity, the Vladimir Theotokos, Theophanes' Transfiguration of Christ, the Dormition of the Virgin, and the Sinai Pantocrator. This popular book is no substitute for the scholarly likes of Jaroslav Pelikan's Imago Dei: The Byzantine Apologia for Icons (1990) or Leonid Ouspensky's Theology of the Icon (1978), or for the short and very readable primary texts On Divine Images by John of Damascus (675-749) and On the Holy Icons by Theodore the Studite (759-826), but it is a welcome addition to the growing literature that introduces Protestants and Catholics to the Orthodox tradition in a non-polemical (if uncritical) manner.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
WINDOWS TO HEAVEN: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics is a collaboration between Elizabeth Zelensky, a Russian Orthodox lecturer of history, and Lela Gilbert, who appears to be a convert from Protestantism to Orthodoxy.

The subtitle doesn't really match the book. While it does try to communicate the truth of icon veneration to Protestants ("they aren't idols", etc.), this effort is very brief, no more than a couple of pages. Catholics hardly need an introduction to iconography, since it is part of their own tradition, but the authors could have clarified how the Orthodox Church rejects the innovation of statuary.

What the book does, however, is lay out the origin and symbolism of five common icons: Rublev's icon of the Trinity, the Vladimir Theotokos, Theophanes' icon of the Transfiguation, the Dormition of the Virgin (minus the "Jew trying to profane the Virgin" addition), and the Sinai Pantocrator. Hence the book will be of great interest to not just Protestant or Catholic inquirers, but anyone interested in iconography, even Orthodox themselves.

The writing is somewhat odd. On one hand, the work has meticulous footnoting as if it were an academic work, but Gilbert's "personal stories" are sappy and amateurish. The work doesn't follow the usual post-Soviet standards in writing also "Kiev" instead of the preferred "Kyiv", and the typesetting leaves much to be desired.

Nonetheless, if the five icons discussed in the book dazzle you and you would like to understand them better, WINDOWS TO HEAVEN is worth reading.
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